COVID-19 Investigation at Belvidere FCA Turns Up Results

WNIJ’s Juanpable Ramirez-Franco reports:

There’s new information known about COVID-19 cases associated with the Fiat Chrysler assembly plant in Belvidere. 

Health officials from the Boone and Winnebago county health departments have been working closely with Fiat Chrysler to identify cases of COVID-19 at the Belvidere plant. The goal is to determine whether cases among workers were though community spread, or if there was an outbreak within the plant itself.

The Boone County Health Department says some of the steps taken include: conference calls with FCA management, locating where positive cases reside, contact tracing of those cases and close contacts, and a site visit to the plant to review safety plans. 

Based on the latest information available, health officials believe cases that occurred at the plant were the result of community spread. Company officials will continue to partner with local health authorities to monitor any positive cases among employees.

29 Illinois Counties Are At Warning Level For COVID-19

A press release from the state Department of Public Health has the details:

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today reported 29 counties in Illinois are considered to be at a warning level for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).  A county enters a warning level when two or more COVID-19 risk indicators that measure the amount of COVID-19 increase.

Twenty-nine counties are currently reported at a warning level – Boone, Bureau, Clinton, Coles, Cumberland, Edgar, Effingham, Fayette, Greene, Henry, Jasper, Jefferson, Jersey, Lake, Lawrence, Madison, McLean, Monroe, Pulaski, Randolph, Rock Island, Shelby, Stark, St. Clair, Union, Wabash, Warren, Williamson, Will.

Although the reasons for counties reaching a warning level varies, some of the common factors for an increase in cases and outbreaks are associated with college parties, weddings, large gatherings, bars and clubs, long-term care facilities and other congregate settings, travel to neighboring states, and spread among members of the same household who are not isolating at home.  Cases connected to schools are beginning to be reported.  General transmission of the virus in the community is also increasing.

Public health officials are observing people not social distancing, gathering in large groups, and not using face coverings.  In some counties, local law enforcement and states’ attorneys are not enforcing important mitigation measures like social distancing and the wearing of face coverings.  Additionally, some people refuse to participate in contact tracing and are not providing information on close contacts or answering the phone.  Individuals are also waiting to get tested believing their symptoms are allergies or some other cause.

Several counties are taking swift action and implementing mitigation measures to help slow spread of the virus, including increasing testing opportunities, working with schools, meeting with local leaders, and educating businesses and large venues about the importance of mitigation measures.

IDPH uses numerous indicators when determining if a county is experiencing stable COVID-19 activity, or if there are warning signs of increased COVID-19 risk in the county.  A county is considered at the warning level when at least two of the following metrics triggers a warning.

• New cases per 100,000 people.  If there are more than 50 new cases per 100,000 people in the county, this triggers a warning.
• Number of deaths.  This metric indicates a warning when the weekly number of deaths increases more than 20% for two consecutive weeks.
• Weekly test positivity.  This metric indicates a warning when the 7-day test positivity rate rises above 8%.
• ICU availability.  If there are fewer than 20% of intensive care units available in the region, this triggers a warning.
• Weekly emergency department visits.   This metric indicates a warning when the weekly percent of COVID-19-like-illness emergency department visits increase by more than 20% for two consecutive weeks.
• Weekly hospital admissions.  A warning is triggered when the weekly number of hospital admissions for COVID-19-like-illness increases by more than 20% for two consecutive weeks.
• Tests perform.  This metric is used to provide context and indicate if more testing is needed in the county.
• Clusters. This metric looks at the percent of COVID-19 cases associated with clusters or outbreaks and is used to understand large increase in cases.

These metrics are intended to be used for local level awareness to help local leaders, businesses, local health departments, and the public make informed decisions about personal and family gatherings, as well as what activities they choose to do.  The metrics are updated weekly, from the Sunday-Saturday of the prior week.  

A map and information of each county’s status can be found on the IDPH website at https://www.dph.illinois.gov/countymetrics.

How Do Local Students And Parents Feel About Remote Learning So Far?

For many northern Illinois students, the school year has started either fully or partially online. So how are they faring with Zoom meetings and the distractions of working from home?

WNIJ’s Peter Medlin checked in with a few northern Illinois families. They say remote learning has been more organized than it was in the spring, but it’s still not without its challenges.

“I was never trained to teach someone how to read and write,” explained one DeKalb-area mom. Another says, “I love being able to overhear what they’re saying to their teachers and the way they’re interacting with their classmates.”

Read more on how the school year is going for them.

And the West Aurora school district surveyed students recently about how they feel about online learning. They had mixed reactions, with one student explaining, “I feel happy and sad. I like to stay home but I miss all of you.”

Read more of their comments.

Trump Administration and CDC Order New Eviction Moratorium

WNIJ’s Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco reports:

Renters facing eviction are now receiving new federal protections through the end of the year. 

This week the Trump administration announced a temporary halt in residential evictions for those struggling during the pandemic. The latest eviction ban, which goes through December of this year, comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Bob Palmer, from Housing Action Illinois, said this is good news, but not ideal: “Overall, it’s a good thing, but it’s not forgiving rent [and] is not providing rent assistance. It’s temporary,” he said.  “So we really need Congress and the Trump administration to get back to the negotiating table on providing financial assistance that will benefit tenants and also landlords”

Continue reading.

Statewide Case Numbers Update

From coronavirus.illinois.gov

The State Department of Public Health announced new cases Tuesday. Read the details in their press release:

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) today announced 1,492 new confirmed cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Illinois, including 39 additional confirmed deaths.

– Adams County: 1 male 80s
– Bureau County: 1 male 70s, 1 male 80s
– Christian County: 1 female 80s
– Coles County: 1 male 70s
– Cook County: 1 female 30s, 2 females 70s, 4 males 70s, 1 female 80s
– DeKalb County: 1 female 90s
– DuPage County: 1 female 80s
– Jackson County: 1 male 60s
– Kane County: 1 male 80s
– Lake County: 1 female 80s
– LaSalle County: 1 female 80s, 1 male 80s, 1 female 90s
– Macon County: 1 male 70s
– Macoupin County: 1 female 70s
– Madison County: 1 male 80s, 1 female 90s
– Mercer County: 1 male 90s
– Morgan County: 1 female 80s, 1 female 90s
– Moultrie County: 1 male 80s
– Rock Island County: 1 female 60s, 1 male 70s, 1 male 80s
– Sangamon County: 1 female 80s, 1 male 90s
– Tazewell County: 1 female 70s
– Vermilion County: 1 male 60s
– Will County: 1 male 60s
– Williamson County: 1 female 70s
– Winnebago County: 1 female 80s

Currently, IDPH is reporting a total of 236,515 cases, including 8,064 deaths, in 102 counties in Illinois. The age of cases ranges from younger than one to older than 100 years.  Within the past 24 hours, laboratories have reported 22,961 specimens for a total of 4,087,122.  The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total test from August 24 – August 30 is 4.3%.  As of last night, 1,513 people in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19.  Of those, 362 patients were in the ICU and 146 patients with COVID-19 were on ventilators.

Rockford Public Schools Delaying Start Of School

Read the details from an RPS press release:

A technology outage is driving RPS 205 to delay the start of school from Wednesday, Sept. 2, until Tuesday, Sept. 8. Administrators are concerned about rushing the first day without the appropriate training and preparation for staff in an unprecedented school year that relies on both in-person and remote instruction. Because of that, we made the difficult decision to delay the start of school until after Labor Day. 

STUDENTS & FAMILIES: The first day of school is now Tuesday, Sept. 8. 

  • All middle and high school students (6-12) will follow their regularly scheduled start times and bell schedule remotely on Tuesday, Sept. 8. In-person middle and high school students should plan to attend school in-person for the first time on Thursday, Sept. 10. 
     
  • Elementary students (K-5) who chose in-person instruction: 

    -Tuesday, Sept. 8: Last names A-K will attend in person; last names L-Z will stay home.
    -Wednesday, Sept. 9: Last names L-Z will attend in person; last names A-K will stay home. 
    -Thursday, Sept. 10: Full attendance day for all K-5 students.
    -Friday, Sept. 11: Full attendance day for all K-5 students.   

  • Elementary students who chose remote-only instruction will log on to connect remotely on Tuesday, Sept. 8, and continue connecting remotely the rest of the week.
     
  • Early Childhood: Both in-person and remote instruction will begin on Tuesday, Sept. 8. Families will receive more information soon. 
     

STAFF: Teacher institute days scheduled for Monday and Tuesday this week are rescheduled for Thursday and Friday. Certified staff are not required to report to work until Thursday, Sept. 3. We apologize for the last-minute change. Please do not complete any work in SeeSaw, Google Classroom, Schoology or ClassLink until instructed to do so.

REASON FOR THE CHANGE: Please note that our systems and data are safe. We want to reassure our families and staff that this is NOT another ransomware attack. This outage has delayed our technology team’s back-to-school preparations by three days. Announcing a delayed start now allows our administrators, IT team, teachers and staff to adjust and provide a smooth start of school for our students and families.

We apologize for the inconvenience to both our families and staff. We will continue to share updates to help our families navigate the first few days of school. We appreciate everyone’s continued patience during this time. Thank you.

IDPH Continues To Recommend Testing For Asymptomatic Carriers

Current COVID-19 case numbers in Illinois | From coronavirus.illinois.gov

The CDC recently changed its guidelines regarding testing asymptomatic individuals who have come into close contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus. The Illinois Department of Public Health continues to emphasize the importance of testing for anyone who may have been exposed. From IDPH:

Following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recent announcement on changes regarding COVID-19 testing protocols, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is reminding all Illinois residents of the importance of getting tested, including after close contact with someone who has tested positive.  The Pritzker administration’s strategy to combat COVID-19 across Illinois has always relied on increased testing.  IDPH state labs were the first labs outside of the CDC to test successfully for COVID-19 early in the state’s pandemic response. Since March, Illinois has tested more than 3.8 million COVID-19 specimens and has expanded testing to areas in the northern, central, and southern parts of the state.

“In the face of increasing infections, we need to promote more testing, not less, to identify new cases and interrupt further transmission,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.  “Given that asymptomatic individuals have been linked to virus spread, we will maintain our more stringent guidance to support testing of any Illinois resident who thinks they may have been exposed, as well as asymptomatic close contacts of confirmed cases 5-7 days post exposure.”

Read the full press release here.

Information on testing centers in Illinois can be found at dph.illinois.gov/testing

Most Illinois K-12 Students Starting School Online

Sean Crawford reports:

Most Illinois school kids will start the school year with remote learning.  That’s according to an Illinois State Board of Education survey of administrators.

Of the districts responding, nearly 1.1 million students, roughly 62% of those enrolled, will do their work in an online-only mode.  However, many districts have indicated they could reconsider a return to classroom instruction later in the fall.  

Continue reading.

Expanded Mask Rules At Bars And Restaurants

Mary Hansen reports:

Beginning Wednesday, restaurant and bar patrons must wear a mask when interacting with servers and bartenders in an effort to stem the recent spread of COVID-19.

Illinois has had a mask mandate since May 1. The new rule specifically states that customers must wear a mask covering their nose and mouth while food is brought to the table, when ordering, and when picking up take-out orders.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, announcing it Tuesday, said his administration worked with the Illinois Restaurant Association to develop it.

“This stuff can linger in the air and the more people you have in a room,” he said at a news conference. “Particularly if you’re eating and drinking where you’re adding to the amount of saliva in their mouth, you’re adding to the viral load in an area so that’s why we’re putting these other mitigations in place.”

Continue reading.

Read the details of the new rules here.

Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program

Sean Crawford reports:

Illinois launched a new Emergency Mortgage Assistance program for those struggling to make payments due to the pandemic.

The program provides grants of up to $15-thousand for those who qualify. There are income guidelines. Also, the homeowner must have been current on payments through February and an adult in the household must have experienced a loss of income after that time.

No re-payment is required. A survey through the U.S. Census finds over 1 in 10 Illinois homeowners have little to no confidence they can make thier September mortgage payment.

Illinois also extended the sign up for rental assistance through this week. Funding for the programs comes from federal coronavirus relief money. Applications can be found online, from the Illinois Housing Development Authority.